The U.S. Department of Education recently issued new regulations impacting Title IX policies at schools. The significant changes went into effect this month, and will greatly alter how universities across the nation deal with sexual misconduct allegations. The Department of Education created these regulations to create a more equitable response to such charges for both the accuser and the accused. Here's what you need to know about these sweeping changes.
Title IX and Sexual Misconduct
Title IX prohibits sex discrimination so that all students have equal access to education. To comply with Title IX policy, universities must incidents investigate sexual misconduct, or they risk losing federal funding. But what is considered sexual misconduct? The coming changes to Title IX revise the definition and scope of sexual misconduct defining it as:
- Unwelcome sexual conduct that is severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive
- Quid pro quo harassment involving unwanted sexual conduct
- Sexual assault (including rape), domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and retaliation
The new definition does not cover other broad forms of harassment like improper conduct or sexual exploitation.
While previously, schools were required to investigate if they “reasonably should” have known about the alleged misconduct, the new guidelines require “actual knowledge” of an incident. As a result, fewer schools will find their funding at risk.
The rules also define where a school's responsibility for student conduct begins and ends. The Department of Education now requires investigations for incidents occurring in areas where the school has “substantial control over the respondent.” This includes areas on campus, school events, and fraternity and sorority houses. The rule excludes other off-campus housing as well as acts occurring outside of the country, such as on study abroad trips.
The changes to Title IX also include a new requirement for schools to hold a single live hearing to investigate sexual misconduct. The hearing must permit the cross-examination of parties or witnesses. If a person does not submit to cross-examination at the hearing, their statements will be excluded from the evidence in the investigation.
Other requirements for live hearings include:
- A trained hearing officer must oversee the proceedings
- A party must have an advisor of their choosing such as a university faculty member or attorney
- Questions deemed “irrelevant” by the hearing officer are prohibited
- Questions about a complainant's “sexual predisposition or prior sexual behavior” are prohibited
- The school must provide parties to be in separate rooms upon request
- Parties can attend the hearing remotely
After the live hearing, the officer must draft a written determination and distribute it to all parties.
Title IX Attorney Advisor
The changes to Title IX will have a far-reaching effect on sexual misconduct cases at universities. If you or someone you know facing accusations of sexual misconduct, your first step is to call a professional attorney. For many years, attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have defended countless students to ensure a fair and favorable outcome. Contact the Lento Law Firm today by calling 888-535-3686.